#516 1991 Australian Grand Prix

2023-01-08 23:00

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#1991, Fulvio Conti, Translated by Giulia Montemurro,

#516 1991 Australian Grand Prix

On the eve of the Australian Grand Prix, scheduled from Thursday 31 October to Sunday 3 November 1991, the last round of the Formula 1 World Champions


On the eve of the Australian Grand Prix, scheduled from Thursday 31 October to Sunday 3 November 1991, the last round of the Formula 1 World Championship, which still sees McLaren and Williams in contention for the Constructors' World Championship. After Ayrton Senna's success in the Drivers' World Championship, another dilemma concerns Alain Prost and Ferrari. In an interview published on Sunday 27 October 1991 by an Italian sports newspaper from Port Douglas, where he is on holiday, the Frenchman reportedly announced that he had been fired from Scuderia Ferrari for 1992, after the statements made in Japan. The Maranello team, on the other hand, lets it be known that the situation is always in a phase of stalemate, of discussion. Now there are two cases: either Alain Prost has only expressed a sensation, or he is again trying to force the situation to try to get rid of the contract without paying the expected duty. The tug of war between Ferrari and Prost, after so many uncertainties and inferences, suddenly resolved on Tuesday 29 October 1991, when this curt press release was released:


"Ferrari has decided not to continue the collaboration relationship with the driver Alain Prost for the 1991 and 1992 racing seasons. The arrangement has immediate effect and therefore the #27 car of the team at the Australian Grand Prix will be entrusted to Gianni Morbidelli, Ferrari test driver, in agreement with Scuderia Minardi".


Minardi summons the Brazilian Roberto Moreno to Adelaide. Why did Ferrari decide to break off the relationship a few days before the last race of the season? Why, when we thought of a peaceful consensual separation, did we come to a breakup? Most likely because Alain Prost's latest heavy accusations after Japan have given the Maranello team the legal papers to end a now unsustainable relationship for just cause. In this sense, he would have advised Henri Peter, the Swiss lawyer of Ferrari. In fact, the professor could be accused of having broken the contractual clause which required him not to speak ill of his single-seater. Ferrari had reportedly proposed a consensual separation to Alain Prost before the Japanese Grand Prix. Then the further tensions helped to increase the series of yellow cards until triggering the dismissal. Alain Prost had been hired by Ferrari in 1990. The Frenchman's contract, after finishing second in the World Championship behind Ayrton Senna, had then been renewed for another two years. The Frenchman, three times World Champion (1985, 1986 and 1989) with McLaren, competed in his twelfth season in Formula 1 this year, obtaining only three second places (United States, France and Spain) and not finishing seven races out of fifteen. In the standings of the World Drivers' Championship, Alain Prost is fifth with a total of 34 points. The choice of Gianni Morbidelli for the Australian race which closes the season is certainly determined by the fact that the young Italian, due to his role as test driver for Ferrari, has a good experience in driving a car with an automatic transmission. 


Entrusting it to another driver for the first time on a street circuit was too risky. Secondly, a possible choice of Ivan Capelli would have seemed like an investiture, which evidently Ferrari does not yet intend to do. The moral of the story is disarming. Sporting director Cesare Fiorio was first out, then Alain Prost was fired and another season to waste for Ferrari. And perhaps the next one is already compromised. In truth, everyone was wrong: the pilot, if not in substance, at least in form (although many of his criticisms were justified). Alain was presumptuous and perhaps he also wanted to take advantage of the situation, seek more power than he deserved, and try to get as much as possible even in terms of money. As far as Scuderia Ferrari is concerned, for three years now the management of the racing team has been nothing short of disastrous: the technicians who arrived and left in droves, the bad internal and external relationships, the management of the drivers, have given the image of a team reduced to impotence, forced to suffer rather than decide. The only hope is that something positive will emerge from this latest failure. However, it does not seem that the ideas are clear enough to believe in a real change of course. Ferrari's press release bounces off the Australian night with the effect of a bomb. Alain Prost, reached by telephone at his hotel in Port Douglas where he was finishing his vacation before the Grand Prix, is not surprised. 


Clearly he had already heard from his lawyer, who comments as follows:


"It is a solution that I did not expect, especially a treatment that I do not accept. I'm going to Adelaide to drive and will see to enforce the contract, where I'm expected to end the season. Indeed, that I also drive Ferrari in 1992. Everything has been defined between our lawyers. Ferrari didn't even make themselves heard. I don't accept being treated like this".


The pilot should hold a press conference on Wednesday 30 October 1991. Surprised, even if in a very different mood, Gianni Morbidelli:


"Until yesterday, I certainly didn't imagine having this beautiful opportunity. It will be a way to show me, it's like playing straight forty and being lucky enough to draw a joker".


Everyone was immediately waiting for Ivan Capelli aboard the Ferrari, in case of a breakup with Alain Prost. But circumstances led to the choice of Gianni Morbidelli. The twenty-seven-year-old Italian, who is currently free because he was dismissed from Leyton House, nevertheless remains - according to the latest polls - the main candidate to join Jean Alesi in 1992. A serious, aggressive but not reckless driver, he hasn't gone beyond two second places so far. Another option could be Riccardo Patrese, if he manages to free himself cleanly from the contract that binds him to Williams ("I've dreamed of going to Ferrari for 13 years, and now that there's the opportunity I'm not free"). Then there are Pierluigi Martini, who has experience with Ferrari engines from having driven the Minardi and the brilliant Stefano Modena. Someone is also following the trail that leads to the emerging star Michael Schumacher, currently linked to Benetton. For the German, the proposal could be attractive, but maybe it's just a question of finding an economic agreement. And Alain Prost? Guy Ligier says he's ready to welcome him with open arms right away. But the pilot excludes this hypothesis. He then has an exchange with Riccardo Patrese at Williams or a year off. On Wednesday 30 October 1991, in Australia, an uncontrolled rumor bounced around according to which Michael Andretti, 29 years old, this year's Formula Indy winner and son of Mario Andretti, was seen near Ferrari. But there are no confirmations. In any case, the hiring of Ivan Capelli is not yet certain, as the Scuderia Italia, which was the first to block the Italian driver, has not been notified. The developments of this new case will be known in a few days. Alain Prost, meanwhile, disappears from circulation. He had announced on Tuesday evening that he would hold a press conference, during which he would tell everything about his relationship with Ferrari to contest the dismissal. But in Adelaide no one sees him. There are several possible solutions to this small case within a case: the driver realized that his presence would have been useless and returned to Europe to better manage his probable revenge against Ferrari; he moved with a private vehicle, choosing a different airport to lose track of himself, at least for the moment; he stayed on holiday in Port Douglas with his current partner Bernadette, the ex-wife of Jacques Laffite. But Alain Prost shows up with a press release, released by the agency that takes care of his interests, IMG (the International Management Group) which says:


"The matter is now in the hands of my lawyers. I'm sorry to find myself in an adversarial situation with Ferrari as a result of what happened. But personally I am relieved that this very unsatisfying season has come to an end. Despite the negative experiences of the moment, however, I retain the enthusiasm to drive in FI in 1992. In the light of a possible dispute, the lawyers have warned me not to comment on the matter for now".


A note from which several messages are inferred. First: the traumatic Prost-Ferrari divorce will end up in court anyway. And one of the pilot's lawyers, the Swiss Jean Charles Roguet, has already made it known that the Court of Geneva will be competent for any dispute. Second: Prost puts his hands forward. After stating the previous day that a year off would have done him good, he now says he is ready to race next season. Maybe it's just a precautionary formula to warn Ferrari that it intends to respect the contract signed for 1992. And since - given the state of relations - this would not be compatible, the sentence can be interpreted as a:


"Let's talk about money and then we'll sort everything out".


The three-times World Champion also let it be known that he would show up in Adelaide to drive his #27 Ferrari. However, this will not be possible as Marcello's team has entered another driver, Gianni Morbidelli, for the Australian Grand Prix. At the limit Alain Prost, if he finds a magistrate willing to accept any claims against him, he could, absurdly, have the car seized. But it is a hypothesis that appears unlikely. The news of Alain Prost's dismissal took the Formula 1 circus by surprise, even though it was known that by now the parties were breaking up. The comments are based more on displeasure for an affair involving a champion of the caliber of Alain Prost and a team such as Scuderia Ferrari, than on judgments in favor of one of the two parties. The loser is the image of such a popular sport. Even if by now sport has accustomed us to everything. Even on Thursday 31 October 1991 the Ferrari-Prost affair continued to be on everyone's lips. A story that has affected the Grand Prix environment, beyond any speech and evaluation, whose moral is summarized in the opinion of Jackie Stewart:


"Formula 1, at this moment, cannot afford to lose a champion of Alain's value, whom I still consider from a technical point of view the best driver and the greatest character present".


And, in the absence of the French protagonist, it was up to the engineer Claudio Lombardi, general manager of the Ferrari racing team, to explain what happened and the latest sensational developments that led to the driver's dismissal. When did the decision to dismiss Prost come about?


"Ferrari has terminated the relationship with Prost with immediate effect for a simple reason. He had to give two types of collaboration: as a driver and test driver, nothing to say, we can only praise him. The second point was to behave like a professional towards the team. He didn't. We are very sorry".


Why did he wait so long for the divorce?


"I'm answering for the period that concerns me, that is, since I've been in charge of this team (since the Canadian Grand Prix, ed). There has been a continuous overlapping of facts. Last week, knowing full well that top drivers there are very few, we compared all the positive and negative sides of the relationship with Prost. The global assessment led to the immediate separation".


Why with only one race to go from the end of the championship?


"There was a situation that led us to take decisive action. Clearly the last thing is just the tip of the iceberg. In reality, the accumulation of all the problems has become intolerable for us and has triggered the decisive spring".


Was it the sentence pronounced in Suzuka that precipitated events?


"This, as I said before, is just the straw that broke the camel's back. A certain type of confidentiality is contemplated in our contracts. I therefore do not want to make mistakes and to avoid them I prefer not to go into the matter further. In any case, on more than one occasion the contents of our speeches have been made public".


Will Prost be able to race in 1992?


"It is an extremely delicate question which, of course, I cannot answer".


Someone wrote that she made the figure of Little Red Riding Hood with the Wolf-Prost.


"I'd rather appear naïve than incautious. However, on this occasion, the bad end came from the wolf".


Who will be the future Ferrari driver to work alongside Alesi?


"We are moving more or less in the area of names made in the press these days. The only one we can't deal with is Michael Andretti who already has a contract signed in the US. Morbidelli, who we are testing here in Adelaide, could also be part of the squad".


So the hunt is on: Capelli, Modena, Martini, Schumacher, Piquet. These are the pilots mentioned recently. But surprises are not excluded. Meanwhile, Alain Prost is said to have checked out of the Port Douglas hotel where he was on holiday. But it is not known for what destination. It is therefore not excluded that it happens in these hours in the circuit. Meanwhile, the Formula 1 championship takes its leave with the by now traditional Grand Prix; of Australia. A race that can no longer say anything for the World Drivers' Championship, already won by the Brazilian Ayrton Senna after the triumph following the misadventure of Nigel Mansell, who went off the track in Japan. But as always there is no shortage of reasons of interest. On the one hand, the challenge for the title for the victory of the Constructors' World Championship between McLaren and Williams (but also between Honda and Renault which supply the engines to the two English teams). On the other hand, the usual end-of-season calls with the drivers already married for 1992 and above all those still looking for a steering wheel in the shop window, obviously with different objectives. The interest of this race held in a street circuit full of pitfalls (walls, jumps, curbs, manhole covers, etc.) that cause mechanical problems for the cars and accidents for the drivers is represented precisely by the duel between the two teams that dominated the previous fifteen evidence. The underdogs go to McLaren for the simple fact that they have an 11-point lead in the standings. And only an en-plein from the rival team and a disastrous result from Ron Dennis' team could turn the situation around. In addition, Ayrton Senna, after graciously conceding first place in Suzuka to teammate Gerhard Berger, no longer seems to be willing to give gifts. 


"It's hard to focus when you've already achieved your goal. That's why it's going to be very tough".


But knowing the type, no other concessions can be expected. On the other hand, Williams, after having practically thrown away the possibility of fighting to the end (the wheel detached on Mansell's car in Portugal...) will not give up so easily. So much so that he brought four cars to Adelaide, one of which was equipped with active suspension. Using this single-seater - it has not yet been decided - could pose a risk to reliability. But it would also be a trump card on such a bumpy asphalt if things go well. Mansell however is categorical:


"In any case we will have fun, because we have nothing left to lose now".


As far as Ferrari is concerned, even the last race didn't change the situation much. And besides, nothing could be expected after so much turmoil. Alain Prost is missing for the first time, after twelve years in the business, and this certainly takes away the chances of victory for the Maranello team, given that Jean Alesi does not seem to be - at least in appearance - in the best psychological conditions. and that the young Gianni Morbidelli cannot be asked to go stupidly to the boarding at such a delicate moment in his career. His race will have to be, as far as possible, a careful race, to reach the finish line and possibly in the points zone. It would already be a great success. The speech is different for the other Italians. While Riccardo Patrese is aiming for a consolation prize after a championship that went very well but with results lower than the Paduan's real possibilities, the Australian Grand Prix could play an important role in the future of Pierluigi Martini, Stefano Modena, two of the names circulated to replace Alain Prost at Ferrari. Another candidate to conquer Maranello, Ivan Capelli, removed from Leyton House, is forced to watch. But for the Italian perhaps the games are already done. At the limit, he has a guaranteed place at the Scuderia Italia, where, in any case, he will find at least the engines of Maranello from Ferrari. There is no peace for Scuderia Ferrari. While the shadow of Alain Prost and the possible aftermath that a legal dispute with the French driver could bring still looms, the last race of the season, the Australian Grand Prix is experiencing a very agitated eve due to a blatant quarrel on the track between rookie Gianni Morbidelli and his teammate, Jean Alesi. It happens during the last qualifying session, tormented by the rain. Only in the last few minutes does the asphalt dry out and practically all the cars take to the track. The French rider sets off for a fast lap, but in a right-hand bend he finds himself in front of his new team-mate and has to slow down dramatically, losing the opportunity to improve his position on the starting grid. Lit like a match, Jean Alesi can't help himself and raises his fist menacingly to the sky. Then the Frenchman returns to the pits and, very angry, refuses to speak to the journalists, hiding behind a:


"I have nothing to say".


Gianni Morbidelli, for his part, didn't even realize what happened. Or at least he pretended not to notice.


"I didn't see it in the mirrors. In fact, I didn't see anything, also because I was starting my fast lap and I was fully concentrated on riding. When I was explained what had happened, we spoke. He must have understood that it wasn't I did it on purpose. His was above all a gesture of annoyance for not having obtained a more valid time".


So, episode closed. It's not the first time that Jean Alesi, a boy with a fiery temperament, goes overboard in certain attitudes. At Ferrari he has already quarreled a bit with everyone, from the engineer Claudio Lombardi down to the last of the mechanics. But the good thing is that after a few minutes everything passes and he repents, realizing that he has exaggerated. Of course, he doesn't have the cold temper of some riders who manage to control themselves in every situation. And this can also be a limit to becoming a true champion. 


The discussion on Alesi opens the broader one on the future of Ferrari which presumably will have to support him with a not very expert driver, in any case not of the caliber of a Prost, a Senna or a Piquet. Even if there is still a glimmer of hope to have Riccardo Patrese. In fact, Patrick Faure, president of Renault Sport, rushed to Australia. It seems that the French company is trying in extremis to convince Frank Williams to accept an exchange between the Italian driver and Alain Prost. Renault and Elf, which supply engines and fuel to the British team, could have some weight in such a decision. Among the obstacles to face there is also the one represented by the presence of Nigel Mansell, who doesn't really get along with the three times World Champion.


"Before they do something like this, they'll have to go over my body".


But with money you can fix everything. As will be remembered at Ferrari, Nigel Mansell himself, in exchange for an F40 car and perhaps 1.000.000 dollars, agreed to give up a contract as first driver to make room for Alain Prost. And who knows whether the matter will not be resolved in a sensational way, leaving Riccardo Patrese at Williams alongside the controversial Alain, to bring Mansell back to the court of Maranello. Meanwhile, two great champions of the past also intervened on the Prost-Ferrari divorce: Niki Lauda, present in Adelaide as a commentator, and Juan Manuel Fangio. He ruthlessly declares the Austrian:


"In this story, the fault lies entirely with Prost. He talks too much and therefore problems have arisen, a professional should discuss with the team and not with the press. Had Enzo Ferrari been there, Prost would certainly have been kicked out midway through the championship. Alain and I didn't have any problems together, perhaps because we each won a title. It's a shame, because I think Prost is a great driver. Even when I was driving through Maranello, there had been some difficulties. But all matters remained within the team. For example, when Ferrari contacted FittipaIdi after my serious accident at the Nurburgring in 1976, I had heated discussions with Ferrari. Everything remained in the room after the quarrel. And when I decided not to race with Ferrari anymore, I naturally told the Commendatore first. Now Ferrari has to rebuild the team. In my opinion it is right that it should be directed by Piero Ferrari. For the name it bears. But it takes a designer to make a winning car. Nichols is good, but he's not number one. He can work if he has a team manager and riders who want to work towards a single goal".


Even Fangio admits that Alain Prost has made many mistakes.


"A driver should never publicly criticize his team. Not the best method. When I was racing for Ferrari I got into trouble and kindly asked the Commendatore to have a good technician available. I was satisfied. But you should never get out of a car at the end of the race and tell the press that it's not competitive to justify yourself. Also because certain admissions are often amplified and exploited".


And when asked what he would have done as Alain Prost, the Argentine replies:


"With a car that isn't up to the others and with three world titles behind me, I would have said to Ferrari: I'm not racing anymore".


Sunday 3 November 1991 the race starts under torrential rain, but the start takes place without incident. Ayrton Senna maintains the first position, ahead of Gerhard Berger and Nigel Mansell, while Riccardo Patrese loses two positions. On the third lap Gerhard Berger goes off the track, handing over the position to Nigel Mansell; the Englishman recovered quickly from Ayrton Senna, but was unable to overtake him, partly due to the yellow flags displayed for the various incidents. On lap six, for example, Nigel Mansell tries to attack his rival on the Brabham straight, but has to give up due to the yellow flags displayed to signal the presence of the crashed cars of Nicola Larini and Jean Alesi, who went off the track a short distance away from each other on the other. The rain intensified again and on lap 10 Pierluigi Martini's Minardi aquaplaned on the Brabham straight; the Italian's car crosses the entire track before going off the trajectory. Meanwhile, Riccardo Patrese has difficulty controlling his car, under which the front wing of another car has slipped; However, the Italian manages to stay on track, while his teammate, Nigel Mansell, crashes into the barriers on the Wakefield Road straight, during lap 16. Michele Alboreto also goes off the road during lap 15, as well as Stefano Modena, who however remains in the race. At the end of lap 16, Gerhard Berger, who had just managed to rejoin the track after going off the track at the Malthouse corner, also ended up in the escape route. Passing the finish line, Ayrton Senna makes obvious gestures to the race marshals, asking for the race to be suspended. A few moments later, while the Brazilian went around lap 17, the race was stopped; at the end of the previous lap, Ayrton Senna was leading ahead of Nelson Piquet, Gianni Morbidelli, Andrea De Cesaris, Alessandro Zanardi and Stefano Modena. Despite the rules in force in 1991 requiring the final classification to be drawn up on the basis of that of the lap preceding the interruption of the race, the race marshals decided to go back on lap 14. 


Initially they thought of restarting the race, so much so that the marshals show the signal ten minutes from the start; however, after vehement protests by Ayrton Senna and Riccardo Patrese to the commissioners themselves, the race was definitively suspended. Ayrton Senna is then declared winner of the Australian Grand Prix, ahead of Nigel Mansell, Gerhard Berger, Nelson Piquet, Riccardo Patrese and Gianni Morbidelli. It was the shortest race in the history of Formula 1. Indeed, the Australian Grand Prix wasn't even a real race, but a parody, a kind of offshore test closed after sixteen laps. All the fault of a spring storm (widely announced by meteorologists) which began to throw showers of water on the circuit area, flooding it half an hour before the start. A race that shouldn't have been held, but which nonetheless had a luxury winner, namely the new World Champion Ayrton Senna, who thus achieved success number 33 of his career which gave McLaren the seventh Constructors' World Championship. The Brazilian performed miracles of balancing until he decided it was time to stop. And, waving one arm from the cockpit of his McLaren, he forced the race director to display the red flag to end what had become a game of slaughter. The balance of this madness that lasted just over 24 minutes is impressive. Nigel Mansell's Williams hit a wall with the English driver forced to go to the infirmary for a suspected broken foot, various bruises and head trauma. Then wrecks on the circuit, rescue trucks in the middle of the track. Worse than 1989 when, on the same track, serious accidents had occurred under a downpour. On Sunday, in fact, the race was held in prohibitive conditions, against all logic. The race director, the Belgian Roland Bruynseraede, gave the start despite the riders having asked for at least one postponement anyway. Once the green light was turned on, it was immediately understood that all sorts of things would be seen. At the end of the race, Ayrton Senna is very clear:


"It was madness to participate in this race. I only accepted out of respect for McLaren who were aiming for the constructors' title. In a straight line it was impossible to go straight, I couldn't engage beyond third gear. When I stopped I would never have started again if it hadn't stopped raining. However, it is not only the organizers who are to blame. Even if there are enormous interests at stake, we must all be consistent: riders, teams, stewards. If there aren't acceptable conditions for racing safely, you shouldn't race".


Only at Ferrari are there any regrets, says engineer Claudio Lombardi:


"Anything can happen in a race like this but it's no more dangerous than others. Alesi was unlucky in the accident with the Benettons. Morbidelli, on a sporting level, was third. Only those who wanted to be phenomenal got off the track. Gianni therefore deserves to enter the squad of a top-team".


A field promotion to replace Prost? Difficult to anticipate decisions, Ivan Capelli still seems to be the favourite, however the young Pesaro played his chance well:


"He You couldn't see in the palm of your nose. After Alesi's accident there were so many flags that it seemed to be at the Palio di Siena. I joined Riccardo, he lifted his foot and I found myself in front. In any case, after the first go the second had to be given as well, because it was less dangerous. In any case, the one with Ferrari was a pleasant adventure, an immense joy that I will remember for the rest of my life".


Alesi, on the other hand, experienced a terrible moment:


"A great scare, I spun countless times and for a few moments I saw the cars speeding past me. Schumacher hit me on the left rear wheel, swerving to the right to overtake Piquet while I in turn, at full speed, was passing him. The Grand Prix had to be stopped after my accident. Visibility was zero".


Riccardo Patrese is furious:


"They are crazy, I have never seen such things. At one point in the straight you had to zigzag to dodge cars, tow trucks, ambulances and pieces of all kinds. What were they waiting for to stop the race? In fact, we didn't even have to leave".


And Nigel Mansell is of the same opinion:


"The race had to be stopped earlier. I don't know what happened to my car, but suddenly I totally lost control. It wasn't aquaplaning, maybe I hit something and hit the wall. I took a bad blow to my left leg, now I have a swollen ankle and dizziness".


But Roland De Bruynseraede explains:


"I suspended the race because there was a car, Mansell's, against the wall with a driver inside. In such situations I have always shown the red flag. We bought time to try to make another start but the rain didn't give us a break".


Luckily the World Drivers' Championship was over at Suzuka. Otherwise a race like the Australian one would have left an endless trail of controversy. But neither is it right that Williams, still battling with McLaren for the conquest of the Constructors' World Championship, was forced to mark the pace in a roulette race, after having invested dozens of dollars in this objective with Renault. Millions of dollars. A highly professional sport by definition, taken as an example by many other disciplines, Formula 1 has not yet managed to solve many of its problems. One of these concerns bad weather. 


Since there is no indoor racing yet, it would be necessary to provide more precise rules in the event of adverse weather conditions. Baseball isn't played when it rains, even big tennis tournaments are disrupted, and even football games are called off (and replayed) when there is too much water on the ground. In the case of motor racing - at this level and considering that Formula 1 single-seaters are open-wheeled and the cockpits have neither windscreens nor wipers - solving the puzzle is not easy. But it must also be said that until now no one has thought of or wanted to find a valid agreement for everyone. It's true there's TV that presses, there are sponsors who pay millions of dollars, there's a complex and cumbersome organization to set up. There is also an audience made up of tens of thousands of people, often coming from afar, who ask for the show at any cost, without mercy. However, it would be sufficient to establish precise rules, perhaps keeping Mondays available to repeat the race. Before making a decision, all stakeholders, including pilots, should be consulted. But pilots are considered clerks, acrobats, well-paid modern gladiators who don't have to talk but drive. The fault - as Ayrton Senna also admits - lies with them too, with the drivers who are unable to assert themselves. However, the greatest responsibility lies with the International Automobile Federation, FISA. In early October, the despot Jean-Marie Balestre fell to make way for the new president-elect Max Mosley. Who wasn't even in Adelaide.


"You will see me very little in Formula 1".


He had said the English manager in his recent appearance in Japan. Why won't he frequent the world of Grand Prix? It's simple: because the power is now entirely in the hands of Bernie Ecclestone: president of the Constructors, vice president of the FIA, delegate for the commercial exploitation of races, organizer of races, master of circuits. A kind of octopus that controls everything, that doesn't accept discussions. You have to run and that's it. After all, the show is even more exciting with the water trails, the carambola against the walls, the wounded. Until we go back to talking about tragedies, waiting in hospitals for news of pilots crashed into twisted wreckage. With the Formula 1 World Championship closed, controversy remains. The usual bad guys say that in the Australian Grand Prix it wasn't just the rain that made the good and bad weather, but also Ayrton Senna. In fact, reliable rumors from the following day let it be known that there would almost certainly have been an agreement of this type between the World Champion and the race director, Roland Bruynseraede. He would have said the Brazilian:


"I agree to take the start on the condition that in case of excessive danger, the race will be suspended if I make a gesture".


It must be admitted that Senna was at least honest: he waited for Mansell who was attacking him to go off the track, before starting to wave his arm to make-precisely-stop the race. But if all this is true, the game cannot be suffered passively, because it is not sporting and because it could create dangerous precedents. With the show at all costs you don't go very far. Also because Formula 1, despite appearances, is not experiencing a period of great health. If the top teams supported by large car companies seem to have no problems with budgets that exceed 150.000.000 dollars a year, for the small teams that are the real backbone of the championship, the risk of crack is considerable. By now, it takes at least $10.000.000 to get two cars running properly. And not everyone can spend these amounts. And not even the Japanese sponsors (there are now at least thirty in all sectors) are able to cope with certain economic demands, also because the crisis is latent even around Tokyo. At this point one wonders how many teams will be able to start in the 1992 season. Staying on the concrete, the French Ags has already disappeared, the Japanese Leyton House closes (the owner Achira Akagi is in jail for a fraud…), Do you know if Fondmetal will still exist. Gabriele Rumi, owner of the efficient team from Bergamo, has so far lost personal gains. But if he can't find $15.000.000, maybe he can give up. Also struggling are big name names like Tyrrell (for sale), Brabham and Lotus. 


In short, a kind of liquidation. And even in the driver's field the situation is not happy. Alain Prost, separated from Ferrari, can't find a team up to his needs, Nelson Piquet abandoned by Benetton struggles to find a steering wheel and thinks of a forced retirement. Many of this year's protagonists will be gone next year. Those who cannot carry suitcases full of doubloons will stay at home to make way for the lucky dowry colleagues. Jordan is said to want around $2.000.000 to allocate one of its cars. In short, behind the brilliant showcase of Formula 1 there is also the specter of unemployment. And what's more, the crisis in the results of that pole of attraction which is always Ferrari risks drawing away the public. Thus ended, amid controversy, the 1991 World Championship and in parallel, also the extraordinary career of Nelson Piquet, who disputed his last race in Formula 1. The Brazilian also survived an era in which he saw many colleagues come to be lost or have a very serious accident. He himself fell victim to it at Imola in 1987. When he returns to the pits in Adelaide, Nelson remains inside the car for a long time, still wearing his helmet and staring into space. Minutes go by. The mechanics worry; they think Nelson is ill. But then, the Brazilian driver asked Giorgio Ascanelli, his engineer, for permission to restart the engine and complete one last lap. But Giorgio very delicately points out to the Brazilian driver that it is not possible to return to the track, given that the safety cars are circulating inside. For Nelson has come the end of a love affair that lasted thirteen years. Once the Australian Grand Prix is over, there is talk again of the divorce between Prost and Ferrari, which inevitably sparked the hunt for the driver, that is, the replacement for the French champion. A research that takes place in two directions: on the one hand the effective one of the Maranello team, on the other the forcedly somewhat imaginative one of the mass media, i.e. the written and spoken press. The justified reserve of Ferrari itself, in search of the best possible solution, in a very intricate situation, has started a sort of lottery from which many names emerge. The latest rumor comes from England. And it is not even an absolute novelty even if it is sensational in various respects. 


On Tuesday 5 November 1991, the popular newspaper (where this term means large circulation at a low-medium level and therefore not always very reliable) Daily Express wrote that Ferrari would be willing to pay 17.000.000 dollars to get back Nigel Mansell, who had left the last year. The hypothesis is suggestive, and could be supported by a major sponsor who wants to subtract English from the competition. Furthermore, the Maranello team could also have bet on a driver who, beyond all considerations, is of great competitive value. And even in terms of setting up the cars he is not the last to arrive. The amount we are talking about is absolutely enormous. But relative if you consider that the top drivers of Formula 1 can be counted on the fingers of one hand. Furthermore, an established champion can give certain guarantees for those who invest in advertising on the team, for the results, for the prizes that are earned by winning races. Also according to the British newspaper, Mansell would be available for the transfer, as long as not to have Prost alongside him, pushed to Williams by Renault. In all of this story, the only disagreement concerns the couple that would form at Ferrari: the Mansell-Alesi duo seems to be a bit forced. Which is why some say that even the Frenchman would risk his job, to make room for an Italian, happy to be the second guide. Everything is possible. But the one thing that is certain is that the flurry of rumors is mainly fuelled by the fact that Ferrari took the time to communicate the line-up for 1992. Ivan Capelli, indicated by everyone as the favourite, does not yet seem to have had any confirmation. So in summary the riders under observation, now excluding Michael Andretti, would be: Mansell, Patrese, Capelli, Martini and Morbidelli. To which is also added Teo Fabi, recent winner of the world sports prototypes. There is a positive point in this uproar: if Ferrari is really trying every practicable way to get the best of what the square offers (one can always make errors of assessment) at this moment, it means that the will to find each other is intact . And that there is the conviction of being able to find the lost enamel again. Perhaps this is the most encouraging note to close a season that has only reserved controversy and disappointment. While the Scuderia Ferrari decides what to do, on Thursday 7 November 1991 Pirelli announces its decision to leave the world of Formula 1. 


A sensational and unexpected decision, that of the Italian company which just in recent weeks had entered into negotiations with some teams already supplied and with others, to find a good set-up in 1992. During the afternoon, however, a dry press release leaves no doubts: out of the world of Grand Prix, maintenance of commitments in Rally (where he collaborates above all with Toyota and Ford) and in some national competitions. The reasons for this renunciation are clearly stated: cost reduction in the face of a generalized global crisis of the tire manufacturers and in view of a restructuring of the company. There is an intention to devote all human and financial resources to strengthening traditional industrial activities. Pirelli had been in Formula 1 from 1950 to 1957 obtaining great results and had returned from 1981 to 1986. Two years of stop and a new return in 1988. In recent seasons it had not been able to supply the top teams, all firmly linked to the American Goodyear. The departure of the Italian brand currently leaves four teams without tires: Dallara, Tyrrell, Brabham and Benetton. But it is easy to foresee that next year, under a monopoly regime, Goodyear should have no difficulty in satisfying everyone, especially as the number of cars entered in the championship should decrease by a few units. It is unlikely that any other company wants or can immediately take the place of Pirelli. The predominant role of the American giant discourages anyone from approaching them: not being able to supply teams like McLaren and Williams, the chances of success are very limited. The abandonment of Pirelli takes away from a sport also based on technological research such as Formula 1, some interest and some possibility of surprises in some circuits. But it cannot be denied that there are also positive aspects in the return to mono-tyres, at least in terms of costs. Fewer private tests, a reduction in the number of tires to be used and perhaps even the disappearance of the qualifying tires with which one normally rides a single lap of the track. So the show was tighter in timed qualifying with several attempts for each driver. Normally in a Grand Prix the two competitors, Pirelli and Goodyear, made around 4.000 tires available. Considering a political cost of over 1.000 dollars per tire (research, transport, special materials, personnel: probably the value is even higher) it was a cost of over 2.500.000 dollars per tender. A huge sum that will now be able to decrease. Meanwhile, as regards Ferrari and the search for Alain Prost's heir, ex World Champion Keke Rosberg (who races with Peugeot in the prototype championship) shows up in Maranello on Thursday 7 November 1991. There is talk of commercial interests, but it seems that the Finn has offered to drive the 1992 car. He seems to have had little success. Carlos Reutemann will also be visiting on Friday. But the current governor of the Argentine state of Santa Fé no longer has ambitions as a pilot. Saturday 9 November 1991, when the telephone rings, in the distinguished villa in the Magenta area, mother Grazia acts as a filter:


"No, at the moment there isn't. If you leave your name, he will eventually call you back".


He, the protagonist of our mini-story, every time he is at home, jumps at every trill. In another situation he would have been able to respond by trying to change his voice, using a falsetto tone, so as not to be recognized. But this is a special time. Ivan Capelli, 28, is the number one suspect to replace Alain Prost at Ferrari. An underground candidacy from him, never officially confirmed by Maranello. It had been said:


"He will be Italian and quite experienced".


Enough to put Ivan Capelli at the top of the list of substitutes, ahead of Pier Luigi Martini, Stefano Modena and Gianni Morbidelli. I The reason why Capelli is practically missing is simple. It would be embarrassing to talk about Ferrari, to answer questions about Ferrari, even if he let slip a joke:


"Luckily I have the right passport".


Firstly because the passage is not yet 100% safe, secondly because it would start in the wrong way, given that discretion still has a good reputation in the Modena area. In reality, the fact that the announcement of the return of an Italian driver to Ferrari has been delayed compared to forecasts creates embarrassment. It is evident that many joints have to fall into place, that every opportunity that the market can offer is being evaluated. Of all the rumors that have arisen in recent days, certainly some have some basis. But it is said that in the end the sacrificed must be the runner who has been nicknamed, without too much imagination, Ivan the Terrible. Meanwhile, Capelli lives hand to mouth. At least it seems. He knows more than anyone investigating this tangled soap opera. Hunted, he replies:


"I am a driver of Scuderia Italia".


Lucchini's team from Brescia put him under contract for 1992. Now, having obtained the supply of engines from Ferrari, they are willing to give up the driver, albeit reluctantly. Ivan Capelli talks about himself in a few words.


"I run by car because I caught the virus following my father who for work reasons - he is a film-television operator - frequented the circuits".


Dad Graziano is the first fan, very discreet, of his son. It is said that he did not hesitate to get into debt to allow him to pursue this passion. But Ivan replied in the best possible way: in karts he also beat Senna, he won an Italian Formula 3 title, in European Formula 3 he punished a certain Gerhard Berger, then he won the F3000. All without having large capitals, with the help of the unforgettable friend-manager Cesarino Gariboldi, who died in a car accident in January 1989.


"The first great pain of my life".


Tells the Italian driver. Discovered and initiated into Formula 1 in 1985 by Ken Tyrrell, Ivan Capelli has yet to win a race, but has finished on the podium three times. The best season of him, those of 1988, when he took many satisfactions with the March.


"That was a car designed by Adrian Newey, it was fast. The car is everything".


Life therefore goes on, almost normally. Better to refuse an invitation to a television broadcast where a Ferrari trial was scheduled, better to slip away. Even the irresistible desire to play pranks at times atrocious (one morning he showed up in the pits, before a race, with a fake arm in a cast after the mechanics had worked all night to fix the damaged single-seater for him) seems to have momentarily extinguished .


"I have nothing to explain, to add".


They just have to wait, in front of the phone. One ring and he will know his route: towards Brescia or in the direction of Maranello. Unless he already knows the truth. For the first time since the end of the Formula 1 World Championship, after so many rumors and indiscretions, a concrete fact was recorded on Wednesday 13 November 1991 on the driver market, which indirectly also concerns Ferrari, always looking for a replacement for Alain Prost. In Paris, in the presence of representatives of Renault (which supplies the engines to Williams) Riccardo Patrese and Frank Williams meet for a TV recording. A favourable opportunity to clarify the situation. The Italian driver - who some say is a candidate to move to the Maranello team - will be able to ask the owner of the English team if what has been heard so far about a possible negotiation is true, if there are any developments and what are the concrete possibilities of a possible exchange. 


As is known, always according to the rumors of the last few weeks, the mosaic is very complex. There are at least five names at stake, tiles to move: Prost himself (driven by Renault), Mansell, Patrese, Capelli and Alesi. All complicated by the roles of the various sponsors, by the interests of teams and riders, by problems of harmony and cohabitation. The only certain pawn seems to be Ivan Capelli: is he moving towards an all-Italian Ferrari? This could also be the case. But we must also take into account a Jean Alesi who does not seem to be willing to move, strengthened by a contract until 1993. In any case, there will be an initial clarification in Paris: the British manufacturer's response may be the basis for all future movements . And, in the meantime, news arrives from the United States that Al Unser junior, Michael Andretti's strongest rival in the Indy championship, will test a Williams. Unser will go to Estoril, Portugal. Another driver's lap candidate? We will see. What is certain is that Ferrari has always accustomed everyone to twists and turns. Enzo Ferrari himself was a master in this field. And it goes without saying that there was something in the air. But no one could have imagined that on Friday 15 November 1991, during the morning, an extraordinary board of directors would bring a new man to the absolute top of the Maranello factory: Luca Montezemolo. Not new ever, we know the whole story. But if we take into account that a few days earlier he himself had officially declared that in his future he would no longer be involved in sports, the surprise can only be great. A fairly rapid assembly, with Cesare Romiti, Piero Fusaro, Piero Ferrari, Sergio Pininfarina, Luca Montezemolo, Marco Piccinini present. Then the statement:


"The board of directors of Ferrari Spa, which met today in Maranello, took note of Piero Fusaro's request to return to work in the Fiat group. Therefore, his resignation from the office of chairman and chief executive officer was accepted. The board of directors has decided to entrust Luca Montezemolo with the presidency and office of managing director of the company, granting him all management powers. The company thanks Piero Fusaro for the activity carried out with competence and passion in such demanding years that have seen the Ferrari brand further consolidate its affirmation on all markets. Piero Fusaro will continue to give his contribution to the company as a director".


Another clean break, therefore, with the past and the present (Piero Ferrari also leaves the command). But how did the new rudder stroke come about? A disappointing season in terms of results in Formula 1, but not only this. It was probably the impression of ungovernability that Ferrari gave of itself in the last two years that tipped the balance towards further radical change after all those of recent years. The continuous controversies and above all the Prost affair have advised us to start over, from scratch, cutting all that intertwining of ties and problems that have been the basis of a long negative period. Sport has long since become a highly professional and specialized activity, in which even the most prepared, competent and honest manager coming from other sectors, however, may not be able to find the key to the problem. And it is in this sense that the move to bring to the top of Ferrari (and not just the racing team, because the industrial and sporting roles cannot be separated in the prestigious Modena-based company) a character who knows the world of car. Luca Montezemolo's task is not easy. We are on November 16, many games and choices have already been made. It is a question of mending, but also and above all of rebuilding. On the one hand, the not indifferent technical means available must be coagulated (a sector in which the responsibility rests with the engineer Claudio Lombardi, but - from an English source - there is also talk of a rapprochement with John Barnard, as designer), on the other rediscover that unity and enthusiasm which are at the root of success. You will have to look for a sporting director capable of managing the team on the track and riders up to the situation. Certainly Luca Montezemolo already has a plan ready, objectives to be achieved in the short, medium and long term. For the moment, silence has been imposed, also because things have taken place so quickly as to impose at least a period of reflection. But it is clear that starting from the following week, when the first joints of the mosaic being redesigned will be ready, the programs aimed at bringing Ferrari back to that role of great protagonist which it deserves by definition will be displayed. Niki Lauda is always on the go. Planes, helicopters, cars. To find it you have to wait until late evening. He answers from his cell phone while traveling on the motorway near Vienna.


"I heard the news about Montezemolo at Ferrari. He's a great choice. Luca is an intelligent, capable person and above all he has the necessary experience to lead a team in Formula 1. I'm happy that he's back on track. I would like to collaborate, help him. I would love to. It would be a good challenge. But Lauda Air commits me full time and I can't leave it. Sorry, but I have to go now. We'll see each other sometime and I'll gladly say goodbye to my friend".


Clay Regazzoni's opinion was much less positive. The former Swiss driver is in Lugano:


"It seems to me that Ferrari is at the last resort if it has to resort to such a solution to solve the problems. I don't see it well".


No comment, however, from Alain Prost who, after all, was one of the protagonists if not the main responsible for this affair. The Frenchman, who is in Paris, had his lawyer, maitre Roget, reply:


"My client is here for private reasons. He is very tired and he doesn't want to talk about Formula 1. So, he doesn't want to express himself".


The other drivers directly or indirectly involved with Ferrari cannot be found. Jean Alesi is in Geneva for a friend's wedding. Riccardo Patrese in Munich for a series of conferences, then he will go to Portugal for a series of tests scheduled by Williams. Nonetheless, in order to frame the situation, the answer that the Paduan driver gave yesterday morning when speaking of his meeting on Thursday in Paris with the Renault executives and with Frank Williams is curious. Riccardo Patrese repeats:


"I already have a contract for 1992. But anything is possible".


It seems that Riccardo has already reached an agreement in principle on the details for a possible move to Maranello. But everything depends on the decisions of Williams, pressed in turn by the French car manufacturer which is pushing for Alain Prost. As for Ivan Capelli, the Milanese was in Genoa yesterday. His position as number one candidate to replace the three-times World Champion, with the arrival of Luca Montezemolo, could further strengthen. Last year the new president of Ferrari had expressed very positive opinions on Ivan Capelli himself. The news of the last few hours, however, has for the moment made the driver problem go into the background. A topic that will certainly be tackled more calmly next week. Looking forward to further developments. For now, every hypothesis among all those presented in recent days is susceptible to confirmation and denial. In France there is even talk of a possible recovery, with some sporting assignment, of Alain Prost. But it seems like a joke: Alain still wants to ride and this would be impossible. And offering him money to be a sports director might be an exaggeration. And Alesi? There are always those who maintain that the young man of Sicilian origin was put on the market, offered to Williams and Jordan. But Jean is stubborn and he wants to continue with Ferrari. There is no shortage of problems to solve. Now it's up to Luca Montezemolo to look for the best solutions. And he doesn't have much time on his hands. On Saturday 16 November 1991, at the Expoauto, a review of sports and non-sports engines, organized for years now with the promotion of Clay Ragazzoni, Ferrari was mainly talked about. Themes: the arrival of Luca Montezemolo as president of the Maranello car factory, the choice of drivers and again the divorce from Prost. Regarding the Frenchman, on holiday in northern Europe with Bernadette, the rumor according to which he could land at Williams is becoming more and more insistent, even if there are still several obstacles to overcome in order to conclude the operation. In the meantime, it seems that Prost learned of the changes at the Ferrari top from the newspapers. And that he has commented on the story arguing that if his dismissal was wanted by the leaders of Fiat, Thursday's news does not change the situation. Even if it were not, however, the Frenchman would not be willing to try again with the Maranello team. 


If it's true that the three-times World Champion has a good chance of going to Williams, it's logical to imagine that any swap to Ferrari could take place not with Riccardo Patrese, but with Nigel Mansell. However, we are still in the field of hypotheses: now every decision will still be up to Luca Montezemolo. Jean Alesi is also seen at the Swiss review, traveling for a wedding and a baptism in the families of friends. The Ferrari driver signs many autographs and answers questions from the fans and some journalists present.


"I learned about Montezemolo from my brother. There are no problems. I don't know the new president well, having only met him on two occasions. It is clear that Montezemolo arrived at Ferrari to lead them to victory again. Since that is also my only goal, that's perfectly fine with me".


But, someone insinuates, is his position in Maranello safe? Alesi, very tense, replies:


"I have a signed contract for some time. A few days ago I tried the seat for the 1992 car. Very nice, I think, but I can't say anything about it. Engineer Lombardi confirmed to me that there are no difficulties for my future. So I have no reason to worry".


On his eventual teammate, Jean Alesi prefers not to comment.


"I would be happy if he were an Italian, between 27 and 30 years old. In order to have the best understanding possible. I've never had the opportunity to talk much with Ivan Capelli, while I have a good relationship with Riccardo Patrese. However, I repeat, if Fiat wanted Montezemolo, there must be a reason".


So they said in Ferrari:


"He will be Italian, quite young but also experienced".


It is, in reality, the portrait of Ivan Capelli. The curtain finally opens on the 1992 Ferrari team. And on Friday 22 November 1991, probably, the Maranello team will officially announce the names of its drivers. One is the Frenchman Jean Alesi: a confirmation of the engagement already announced last spring (and it must be recognized that, despite the thousands of speculations and indiscretions, the managers of Scuderia Ferrari had never questioned compliance with the agreements). The other is, in fact, Ivan Capelli, protagonist in recent years of some exciting races, even if not comforted by victories. As sometimes happens, the official news is anticipated by a fortuitous meeting. Capelli, together with his personal doctor Ceccarini and Dr. Benigno Bartoletti, health manager of the Formula 1 team, is seen and photographed at the Sisport Center in Orbassano, where Juventus train. The reason? Certainly not a meeting with Trapattoni's players. It can be deduced that Capelli, after undergoing the usual checks at the Sports Medicine Center in Genoa, went to Dr. Pasquale Bergamo - the club doctor of the Juventus club - for a global examination of the results. It seems that he was found in excellent condition and equipped with a robust physique. To enlist, in short, not in Juve, of course, but in Ferrari. We remind you that the Italian driver wears contact lenses. For the Maranello team it is a return to Italian drivers, three years after the divorce with Michele Alboreto. For lovers of statistics, remember that only Andrea De Adamich in the modern era had driven a single-seater Ferrari - a single Grand Prix, in South Africa in 1968, which ended with an off-track - wearing glasses. So the first act of managing Luca Montezemolo is to give stability to the team. Closing with rumors and discussions without looking for difficult alternatives signals a willingness to ease tensions and start working right away. 


Because Ivan Capelli could already be in Maranello on Friday to test the seat and perhaps the car. It is clear that he will soon be put to the whip to adapt to the automatic transmission. The signing of Ivan Capelli, who will almost certainly be replaced in Scuderia Italia by Pierluigi Martini, will create problems for Alain Prost. Or at least someone else. If it is true that the three-times World Champion Frenchman is being pushed by Renault towards Williams, who will make room for him? Mansell or Patrese? We refuse to think that at this point the English builder has the courage to dismiss one of his protégés, even if the god-money can do anything (for example 10,000,000 dollars to Mansell to retire to Florida, where he recently moved ). Prost, therefore, as there is no other team of a certain level available, will have to stay at home for a year, perhaps preparing legal and competitive revenge. Unless he decides to start a career as a manager. In this case he would only have the difficulty of choosing: Ligier, maybe Peugeot if he decides to enter Formula 1 or Audi, given that by now Mercedes seems to have shelved the project of building a single-seater. And maybe there will be other surprises: Prost himself had announced huge changes before the end of the year. There have been earthquakes, we can expect anything. Times change, years go by, but the ritual is always the same. When a new driver arrives at Ferrari it is a special day: moments of great emotion are relived, hopes are rekindled, a sense of excitement and challenge is felt in the air. Feelings, moods that you always have time to fully savor, also because the waiting hours behind the gates of Maranello have been many and in any case very long for decades. The same thing happens on Friday 22 November 1991 on the occasion of the announced debut in red overalls by Ivan Capelli. The driver arrives in Maranello at approximately 10:30 in the morning and is placed in front of the press and photographers at 4:00 in the afternoon. An informal meeting in a small sitting room of the Gestione Sportiva. Excited? Yes, certainly. But also serene, aware, reflective. A first positive impact. And after all, from a human point of view, Ivan Capelli is not a character to be discovered: a remarkable sense of humour, disposition for the most terrifying jokes in his free time, maximum seriousness and professionalism when it comes to driving a racing car. What does it mean to get to Ferrari?


"For me it is a dream come true. I think it would be for any driver, especially for an Italian. If you could only imagine what I feel inside... An indescribable feeling. I've been with Ferrari for only five or six hours and it all seems unreal to me. A bit like the first day of school. Last night, I confess, I slept very little. I also went through difficult days, of uncertainty. But I was ready for anything, even the worst. I would have accepted even a negative response. I would have suffered, but I would have come to terms with it. But now it's all over, here I am".


Who is Ivan Capelli really?


"I am a person like many others, with the added passion for car racing. I think I have made many sacrifices to reach this goal, but I have already had a lot of satisfaction. I like sport, almost everything. As a kid I played football, left wing. With Pro Sesto I won a regional championship for students. The only fashion activity I can't appreciate is golf, too static. I like movement and speed".


So is Ferrari a point of arrival?


"No, starting. Now is the time to work hard, to reciprocate the trust gained. And also to prove my worth. I've never won a race in F1, I've never been convinced that I've always done the best with the vehicle I had at my disposal. I have several races under my belt. Certainly our team cannot boast noble names like those of McLaren and Williams. But this too is an incentive to do well".


A little fear, fear of not being up to it?


"No, not this. I'm not scared, I look to the future with optimism. It's clear that you have to work hard, I'll try to give the best of myself. If I came to Ferrari it is to win, to aim for the world title. I know it sounds exaggerated, but a different philosophy would be stupid. We'll try anyway".


In summary, these are the speeches of Ivan Capelli, who subsequently visits the workshops, the track, tries out the seat of car 643 and probably sees the dummy of the new 644. The Italian driver speaks to Lombardi, who was the first to give him the news of the engagement, and has an interview with the president Montezemolo, in front of whom he presents himself in the red overalls. Ivan Capelli says it was a frank, clear meeting. Of Alesi, he says:


"I think we'll be an interesting couple: he's a temperamental and aggressive rider, I'm more reflective but just as determined".


He leaves car #27 with his teammate. After all, you can also go strong with the other. For the debut of Ivan Capelli on Ferrari, Monday 25 November 1991, on the Fiorano track, there was a bath of crowds and rain. There are many fans present, while the water falls from the sky until the afternoon. The Italian driver, after some adjustments, began testing around 4:00 pm, completing 14 laps, the fastest in 1'15"01, on rain tyres.


"Obviously I didn't force it, although in the end I did a couple of drifts, just for fun and for people to see. The car? You can sense the great potential and advantages of the automatic gearbox".


In the meantime, according to some rumors collected in the Parisian motorsport circles, it seems increasingly probable that Alain Prost will be able to drive a Ligier V10 Renault in the 1992 Formula 1 World Championship. The project would be to bring a prestigious French driver to the wheel of a French single-seater with french engine. In recent days, the three-time World Champion has paid several visits to the Magny Cours factory and studied the project for the future JS 37. Beyond the financial aspect, Prost above all asks for technical but also human guarantees. The Frenchman is free to choose his accommodation for 1992, despite the dispute with the Maranello company. All that remains for Guy Ligier, therefore, is to be able to mobilize new economic partners, who could be enticed by the idea of a French duo in Formula 1. An arbitration commission will decide on the dispute that arose between Alain Prost and Ferrari, after the expulsion of the champion of the world by the team, one race before the end of the season. This was declared on Thursday 12 December 1991 by the French driver's lawyer, Jean-Charles Roguet, who also specified that he had no intention of taking legal action against the Maranello team.


"A commission of three members will try to find an agreement between Prost and Ferrari".


It remains to be seen what the Maranello team will decide on the matter. In the meantime, the pilot, after entering into negotiations with Ligier-Gitanes for 1992, will leave for Florida where he will spend the end-of-year holidays with his sons Nicolas and Sacha. In any case, Prost will decide on his future only upon his return to France, towards mid-January, the date scheduled for the release of the new Ligier single-seater, the JS37 with a Renault V10 engine. Meanwhile, on Friday 20 December 1991 Ferrari announced the first moves of the new president Luca Montezemolo. the press release indicates the new structure of the racing team: Claudio Lombardi remains in charge of sports management; the Englishman Harvey Postlethwaite is brought back to head of chassis design; Sante Ghedini, already in Ferrari as director of the Fiorano track and as Niki Lauda's trusted man, returns to sports management. Head of the motor sector Paolo Massai is confirmed. The press office was taken on by Giancarlo Baccini, journalist of Il Messaggero, one of the most efficient collaborators in the management of Italia 90. Engineer Pierguido Castelli, technical manager, left Ferrari after four years to take up an important position in the Fiat group. So Montezemolo's team takes shape. Postlethwaite, released by Mercedes, has already worked with Ferrari for several years and knows the environment well. Ghedini is a volcanic man, very active who will be able to lend a good hand to Lombardi, relieving him of commitments that could distract him from his technical work. There are those who say that sooner or later Niki Lauda will also return, as adviser and image manager. At Ferrari they are silent on the subject for now. It's not a problem for the fans: as long as Ferrari wins again.


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